Running is an activity that can be enjoyed year-round, and especially when you're training for a race, sometimes you can't help but run in certain weather conditions will require specific preparations. If you plan to run outdoors in the winter - especially if you're running up there by our Northbrook and Burr Ridge clubs - follow this guide for how to run in cold weather to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable run.
1. Dress in Layers - Instead of wearing one thick or bulky garment, it's better to dress in several layers of thinner garments. Each garment will help trap warm air between the layers, providing you with better body heat retention. Don't forget to layer your socks as well; this will keep your feet drier and warmer than if you were to wear only one pair of thick socks.
2. Wear a Windbreaker - A windbreaker is made of specialized material that acts as a protective shell, deflecting cold air and wicking moisture away from the body. Most windbreakers are comprised of nylon or Gore-Tex material, both of which are breathable but waterproof, helping you to stay dry inside and out.
3. Choose Non-Mesh Shoes - Mesh shoes are great in terms of breathability, but if you're running in an area that is littered with slush from recent snowfall, your shoes can get soggy, leaving your feet ice cold. If you can, find some running shoes that feature Gore-Tex uppers. Also consider wearing socks that can wick away moisture from your feet, which will help keep them warm and dry during a chilly run.
4. Cover Your Head and Hands - On cold days, running with your head and hands uncovered can be quite painful, especially if it's exceptionally windy. We lose most of our body heat through our head and extremities, so don't forget to wear a hat and gloves when you go on your runs.
5. Warm Up Properly - Cold muscles are more susceptible to injury, so you need to make sure that your muscles have been sufficiently warmed up before hitting the pavement. Perform a handful of warm-up exercises indoors such as jumping rope or mountain climbers to get the blood flowing, and be sure to stretch your legs, hamstrings and calves before you head out.
6. Don't Focus on Speed - Your winter runs should not be focused on speed work, but rather on maintenance miles. If temperatures are extremely frigid, you may need to break up your run into morning and evening segments to avoid getting too cold due to lengthy exposure. For example, a six-mile run can be broken down into two separately occurring three-mile jogs.
7. Protect Your Face and Lips - If it's even slightly windy out, it may be necessary to apply Vaseline to your face to protect your skin from windburn. You can also wrap a scarf or neck gaiter around your mouth to knock some of the chill off the air that you breathe in; this will prevent the unpleasant sensation of burning lungs, which has the potential to damage your airways. In addition, make sure to generously apply lip balm to keep your lips from chapping, splitting or cracking.
8. Stay Hydrated - We often only think about staying hydrated on hot days, but running in cold weather can produce dehydration in your body as well. The reason for this is that the lungs have to work overtime in order to humidify and warm the air coming into your body, and this requires a significant amount of water. You lose water through perspiration and exhalation as well. Drink room temperature water when hydrating for a run, as this will allow the water to be absorbed at a slower pace (cold water gets absorbed very quickly), and it will help your body maintain an optimal internal temperature in cold weather. Be sure to adequately re-hydrate after your runs as well.
9. Warm Up Quickly After a Run - As soon as you stop running, your core body temperature will begin to drop. The first thing you will need to do when you get back inside is to change clothes quickly, head to toe, in order to keep a case of the chills from setting in. Also, drink something hot, such as coffee, tea or hot chocolate, to warm up your insides. If you drove to your running location, you can pack a thermos in your car to enjoy a hot beverage on the way back home.